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Doctors perform worlds first bionic eye implant

Monday 27th July 2015
Doctors in Manchester have performed the worlds first bionic eye implant to allow a blind man to see. Image Credit: Squaredpixels
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A team of doctors in Manchester have allowed a man to see again after they performed the world's first bionic eye implant. 

The surgeons used a retinal implant, which shows video images from a tiny video camera worn on glasses, to give him enough vision to complete daily tasks, the BBC reports.

Ray Flynn lost his central vision because of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world.

The 80-year-old patient has said he is "delighted" with the result as it enables him to determine the direction of white lines on a computer screen.

Developed by US firm Second Sight, the Argus II implant has been used to restore vision who had a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which caused them to go blind. However, the team in Manchester are the first to perform the operation on someone with AMD.

The implant works by getting visual information from a miniature camera mounted on glasses, which are worn by the patient. These images are then converted into electrical pulses and transmitted wirelessly through electrodes attached to the retina.

The remaining cells in the retina are then stimulated by the electrodes, which send information to the brain. Although the implant cannot give any detailed vision, it can help people to see distinct patterns such as door frames and shapes.

In total, the Argus II implant costs about £150,000, including treatment costs, but patients on the trial receive it free of charge. 

According to BBC News, the four-hour operation was led by Professor Paulo Stanga, consultant ophthalmologist and vitreo-retinal surgeon at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and professor of ophthalmology and retinal regeneration at the University of Manchester.

Two weeks after the procedure, Mr Flynn was able to detect the pattern of horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines on a computer screen in a test using the implant. In order to get results, Mr Flynn closed his eyes so the team could be sure that what he was seeing came from the camera on his glasses and the implant.

Mr Flynn said: "It was wonderful to be able to see the bars on the screen with my eyes closed."

Over time, Mr Flynn should become more effective when it comes to interpreting the images, Professor Stanga said.

With the success of this operation, the clinical trial will now see four more people with AMD are due to undergo the procedure Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.
Prof Stanga said: "We hope these patients will develop some central visual function which they can work in alongside and complement their peripheral vision."

We are very excited by this trial and hope that this technology might help people, including children with other forms of sight loss."

Written by James Puckle

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